Sterling’s due date was a Tuesday. I had just hired a new barista, Elise, so I met with her in the morning to get her paperwork filled out and did a quick orientation to the cafe. I had a nice visit from a lady named Amber and she told me her pleasant home birth story. I ran by the optometrist to pick up my new glasses. It was fun to answer with “Today!” when people asked when I was due.
I was really hungry so I grilled up a huge rib eye steak, an ear of corn and a big green salad. I ate every bite which surprised me because it was a lot of food even for my pregnant appetite! I then took a nice, long, 3 or 4 hour afternoon nap- much longer than usual. I was struggling with patience that day- I was ready!- so I really wanted to go into some nature to get some perspective. The problem was it was hot! Over 93 degrees I think, so I drove out to Tryon Creek where it’s nice and shady.
I took a slow walk, and repeated some affirmations in my head the whole time, “I trust my body to go into labor when it’s healthy for both of us.” “I trust my baby to descend with ease.” “My cervix opens with ease.” “My body was made for this.” “My body knows when to go into labor.” I sat in the covered porch area by the front and meditated on how beautiful the nature around me was while a lady came in and practiced tai chi. I went out for another loop through the park and continued to meditate and repeat the affirmations. The walk and the trees felt great.
When I got home my friend Jessica came over and we hung some art in the baby’s room and put up a cork board on his wall. We talked about how excited I was to birth and how confident I felt going into the experience. Before she left I mentioned to her that I was starting to feel a little crampy.
When I had the house to myself I felt the urge to sage smudge our home for his entry, something that I really wanted to do once the house was completely organized and before he made his arrival. I blasted some deep house music on the stereo while I tidied up, wiped down all the counters and surfaces and swept the floors. The house felt the most clean and organized it ever has been. I lit candles all around the house and it made a such a pleasant environment. I went around all the rooms, doors, windows and corners setting a good clean intention with the sage.
During the cleaning and smudging I felt more of the cramps and had thought about calling Perry but decided to wait. Shortly after I got done he came home and I was glad he did. His first impression was that I was smoking pot and couldn’t handle the smell of the sage. We talked a bit about the cramps and he decided he wanted to at least give the midwives a heads up so he texted the on-call number. Angela was the midwife on call and suggested that I try to get as much rest as possible so we laid down in bed and put on a movie. It didn’t last long because my cramps were getting uncomfortable to the point that I couldn’t lay still through them. I got up and wandered around the house and Perry got up with me. It was only midnight or 1am so we just put on some music and Perry lit candles for me and rubbed my back.
Then the cramps that I was having started to developed into a rhythm. I wasn’t able to talk through them. Perry had the insight to download a contraction timer and started timing them while he was comforting me and getting the house ready in case we were going into labor. I was moving around the house so much that I kept losing my water glass so perry placed a cup in each room so that I would always have one near by. I hadn’t grasped fully that I was in labor at this point because it just wasn’t that painful or out of my control and I hadn’t seem any labor indicators like mucus plug or water breaking. I think that Perry knew we were on our way though and got the bed ready with the liner and continued to update the midwife. I was called to the water and drew a bath. Perry was so sweet and attentive, bringing in candles and even making a bed on the floor in the bathroom that he could lay on to stay near me.
At that point my cramps started to feel like contractions and the water was so soothing. I think the water brought them on a little stronger but they were easier to handle. I approached them with a yogic breath focusing on the exhale. I felt the rush coming on, peaking and then easing away. I enjoyed the rhythm and the intensity. “My body was made for this,” “Surrender,” and “I can do anything for one minute” were my mantras. What I needed for myself was to be quiet and go inside to find my strength. Perry was having trouble knowing when they were starting and ending because I was so quiet about them but he caught on to my breathing patterns quickly.
I entered a state that was very trancelike. I think I fell asleep even between some of the contractions. Being in our home and together with Perry was comforting enough for me to zone into my body and lose track of time. I must have stayed in the same position in that tub for hours because the water had cooled and been reheated a few times. It was very peaceful. While Perry was texting with the midwife I decided that I wanted to get into the birth tub and I wanted her to get there to check things out. Both the midwife and the doula, Giuliana, got there about the same time. All my modesty that I thought would be an issue was out the window. It was also a strange, surreal reality because I didn't have glasses on so couldn't see who was arriving.
When Angela checked me I remember her saying “Oh! Your baby is so low!” and she said that I was about 6 centimeters dilated. When the tub was filled I got up to use the toilet and when I sat down there was a huge splash! We thought it was the mucus plug at the time but looking back it was my waters breaking. How convenient to be sitting on the toilet for that! I moved into the birthing tub and remember noticing that the sun was out by then. How amazingly comfortable that tub was with fresh hot water and room to float around!
I went quickly back into the trance and just breathed through contractions with the comfort of Perry and now Giuliana as well. The stereo was once again playing house music that soothed me. The midwives left to get coffee and while they were I gone I woke myself up out of the trance from a change in my breathing. Rather that quietly breathing through rhythmic contractions I was now moaning steadily and consistently through something that felt different. Almost less painful, yet more intense and engaged. Giuliana asked if I was ready to push, and looking back I think that I had just slept through transition.
When the midwives got back I was checked and she confirmed that I was complete and ready to push.
Pause. I just laid there and settled into that place. That place after the contractions, after transition yet before pushing. I felt comfortable and safe there. Where I was headed felt scary and painful. I felt my pelvis opening up and my baby’s head easing between my bones. It hurt. I was scared so I didn't push myself any farther. I rested. Perry was in the tub with me by this point and held me while I enjoyed the place that I was in.
After quite a bit of time Angela came over and gave me some encouragement. She told me that I could keep doing what I was doing and the baby would eventually move down or I could go ahead and push and she thought he would come out fairly quickly. I wasn’t quite convinced yet that I could do it. I was afraid of the pain. I leaned over and told Alexandra that I was scarred. She assured me that I COULD do this and that I was already doing so well. With the midwives encouragement I accepted that It was a crazy place inside myself that I needed to go, but it’s what I had to do. I was ready to birth this baby.
I moved into a position where Perry was behind me pushing with as much pressure as he could into my lower back. He was nearly pushing me out of the water. I breathed my baby down. I felt the pain and I stayed with it. Giuliana, the midwives and Perry all cheered me on which was exactly what I needed right then. I pushed- something that I wasn’t prepared for but I did it with control. My contractions weren’t feeling strong so I asked for help. Kai pressed on some acupuncture points and Perry stimulated my nipples and the contractions instantly picked back up! My vagina opened smoothly and my baby moved down. After a while Angela said that I was crowning. My first thought was ‘What the heck was I doing for the last ten minutes?!” Honestly though, the pushing wasn’t bad, it actually got back to the rhythmic flow like contractions which felt nice. Getting his little head out was exciting and I was amazed and how easy his shoulders and the rest of his body slid out with the next push. Our baby was in this world.
Perry caught our little Sterling and brought him up to my chest. He reached up with a little hand taking in the outside air. What a incredible moment holding this little being for the first time. He wasn’t crying so Alexandra lifted him up to empty his lungs out and he let out a wale. Sterling was healthy as can be getting a 8/9 Apgar score. He weighed 8 lbs on the dot and was 20” long.
On June 22nd, I went to my OBGYN for an ultrasound and check up, the ultrasound told me that the baby could be 11 pounds, with a chance of being two pounds smaller or larger. I was given the option to have an elective c-section, be induced, or see when labor started naturally, also being told that chances of me being able to deliver an 11lb (possibly 13lb) baby on my own, was near impossible and quite risky. In my mind, I personally didn't want to go through an induction, being in labor for days, to end up with a c-section after all of that hard work, so I opted for the elective c-section. We scheduled the c-section for that Friday.
So, the morning of Friday June 27th, 2014, I slept in, got up and showered, did my hair and put some make-up on, and made sure everything was all set at home. My husband had gone in to work in the morning to finish up a few things, came home and showered and we left for the hospital around 11:30am, with the c-section scheduled for 2pm. We got all checked in, waited in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity. When I got called back there, they explained how everything was going to go, what would be done, started my IV fluids etc. At 1:30, they had my husband get all dressed in his scrubs, it was go time! We were wheeled back to the operating room, when I was wheeled in that room, it was the most overwhelming feeling ever, huge lights, bright white room, with all kinds of contraptions and tools I had never seen in my life, and all I could think of was, in a short time, I would have a baby. I talked with all of the staff, joked around with them, and they helped me to relax quite a bit. The anesthesiologist came in, and had me sit up to place the epidural, which took very little time, next thing you know, I was numb from the neck down. The drapes were all placed over my stomach, and it was time to begin. My husband came in, they gave me some pain medications through my IV, the anesthesiologist sat behind my head and was playing Pandora radio, and showing me pictures of his dogs, he had his feet up on his desk and we were laughing and chatting like we were best friends. For what was going on, it was a very relaxing atmosphere. My OB came in and got suited up, and at 2:01pm said she was going to get started. At 2:07 pm we heard a cry, and "IT'S A BOY! AND WOW HE'S BIG!" I was given some anxiety medicine at this point because I had asked for some, but I still remember everything! At this point, I completely forgot what was even going on because I was so in love with seeing my baby and my husband, and every one busily moving about the room getting the baby situated. Mitchell Joseph Thoin was born at 2:07pm weighing 9lbs 1oz and he was 21" long. I was wheeled up to recovery at 2:57pm, where we stayed for about two hours, I was able to attempt to nurse, hold Mitchell, and just relax and take everything in. Recovery wasn't as bad as expected. I was up and walking around 6pm, although, walking I may have looked similar to the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I was walking. The more I walked, the better I felt. I was able to shower the next morning. Everything could not have gone any better with my delivery, it was very relaxed, and everyone was happy and healthy. The staff at the hospital was amazing, and the baby never left my sight. Everything that needed to be done to him, was done right in my room (except for the circumcision, that was across the hallway.) You fall in love a million times over with your partner when you see them holding your baby in their arms. So much love that you could explode! It was also so exciting to see all of our family and closest friends that came to visit in the hospital. I never felt overwhelmed in the hospital, or "over-visited."
After about two weeks at home, I was feeling 100% myself, being able to control the minimal amount of pain I had with just Advil. I'm so glad everything went as smoothly as it did, and that my son is now a happy, healthy, smiley 9 month old!
I've worked in the birth field for about 4 years now. I've known all sorts of amazingly strong women who have birthed their babies in a variety of powerfully beautiful ways - including with the assistance of pain medications, epidurals and yes, even cesareans. The following is my opinion, based on what I've observed both personally and professionally.
Once upon a time, when I heard the term "natural childbirth", I envisioned the strongest of strong women - birthing their infants fearlessly, without the use of an epidural or pain medications. "Natural childbirth" sounded like such an unattainable goal to me, because quite frankly, I thought it was a term reserved for a select few of the bravest women in the world. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Here's what I've learned to be true. The mother who plans a completely intervention free childbirth, yet ends up with life threatening complications that earn her a surgical delivery is the bravest woman I know. The woman who is exhausted after being awake all night laboring and chooses to have an epidural so that she can rest before her child enters the world is the bravest woman I know. The woman who is terrified of the unknown, and delivers her baby after several doses of narcotics is the bravest woman I know. The woman who chooses to have a home water birth and screams her baby into the world is the bravest woman I know.
All of these mothers grew a tiny human (or two!) in their very own bodies! Each mother was so strong, so brave and worked amazingly hard to birth their children. Each and every one of these children entered the world through their mother's body. Shockingly natural, no?
Now, I challenge you to change the way you use the term "natural childbirth". What's more natural than a baby being born? I also encourage you to be careful with your words and actions, so that you never discount the magic and wonder of each mother's hard work and resulting miracle.
I hear so many parents second guess their parenting instincts - turning to the masses for advice. Of course, there's knowledge to be soaked up by listening to what works for others. But there's nothing like parenting from your heart, doing what FEELS right to you as the one true expert on your child.
Where can we find the greatest example of parenting by heart? In other mammals. There's something to be said for how mammals raise their young in the wild. It's a force driven by instinct, the need to protect and unconditional love and acceptance. Unless, of course, you're the runt of the litter...but I digress....
If nothing else, here's some sweetness in nature for you to soak up.
Photos from Imgur
I love beautiful photography. I will say that while nothing is extremely graphic in these photos, they do capture real, raw birth moments. So click away and enjoy these remarkable images....because birth is beautiful.
Image of the Year Competition for Birth Photography:
I remember my own last days of pregnancy. Each time, I was SO very excited to kiss those sweet faces. At the same time, I was feeling really sad about our last days together - just the two of us - where I didn't have to share my baby with the world yet. But I was so DONE...and so READY. Such conflicting emotions, and it's so very normal!
Here's a beautifully written article about this very thing: http://www.mothering.com/articles/the-last-days-of-pregnancy-a-place-of-in-between/
I've recently become very passionate about supporting families who have scheduled cesareans. Over time, through my experiences as a doula and talking with women who've birthed this way, I've learned that ALL births are truly magical, beautiful and worthy of celebration. I love working at cesarean births, cheering mom and dad on as they welcome their precious little one into the world. Mamas who endure labor OR surgery deserve to feel like proud warriors for bringing a child earthside. The added anxiety that surgery can bring to some makes it a perfect place for me to come in, sit with parents and reassure them of what's to come. Before the birth, I meet families at the hospital, make sure dad is informed and not feeling left out, help communicate birth preferences to hospital staff (yes, cesarean moms have choices, too!) and hold hands or rub backs to reassure everyone that they aren't in this alone. During a birth, I've been able to take photos, encourage mom and dad as the birth unfolds and help hold newborns up to mom's chest for immediate breastfeeding if she's a little shaky after birth. If preterm babies or multiples are involved, and babies need to be separated from mom for any reason, I'm able to provide constant updates and photos. The extra postpartum support in the hours that follow the delivery also make cesareans very worthy of having a doula present.
If you want the added support that a doula can provide to you during your cesarean, I'd love to meet with you and talk about your options. I would love to help you create a beautiful birth experience.
In the meantime, here's a real birth story about one mom who planned one kind of birth experience and ended up with another. I like this story, because it reminds you that not all breech babies require a cesarean delivery, that it's normal to grieve your original expectations and that a doula was involved in the process (and helped!)